Former Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and current Town of Hempstead Councilmember Anthony D’Esposito, candidates for the state’s 4th Congressional District, argued on gun control laws and what should be done to combat rising crime rates during a Newsday interview on Thursday.
D’Esposito, a Republican and retired NYPD detective, said ensuring that individuals with illegal firearms are arrested and establishing task forces on the federal level are the best ways to combat gun violence.
Word of cashless bail not retaining offenders, he said, quickly passes through the streets to others who feel they can get away with certain criminal activities.
“I think the focus needs to be on those who are carrying illegal firearms and not creating laws to limit the people who are carrying them legally,” D’Esposito said.
Gillen, a Democrat, said public safety is a paramount concern of her and other mothers throughout the district and state. She said that universal background checks and supporting other legislations to get firearms off the streets are some of the best ways to protect children and other individuals.
“I will support universal red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and I will support a full ban on all military-style assault weapons which have no business being on our streets,” Gillen said.
Repealing the state’s bail reform laws, D’Esposito said, is something he will advocate for in Congress if elected. He touted endorsements and support from various law enforcement organizations and said he would fight for whatever can aid law enforcement officials to conduct their jobs to the best of their ability.
“What the Democrats and people that Laura Gillen have supported over the past years instituting cashless bail has created and caused havoc amongst our streets,” he said. “We may say that this is a New York City issue. It’s not a New York City issue. It is an American issue.”
Gillen also said she has spoken out against the cashless bail laws and that she is also in favor of funding the police and aiding them in their pursuit of combatting rising crime rates. She referred back to gun safety and mental health legislation as ways she would help fight crime in office if elected.
“We can’t talk about crime without talking about guns and without talking about mental health,” Gillen said. “I support the Mental Health Matters Act, which is a really important bill that was put forward in the House and voted against by almost every single Republican.”
While D’Esposito, who is also running on the Conservative line, said he would not support a nationwide ban on abortions, Gillen said his party affiliation is “against all abortions.” The issue is a personal one for Gillen, she said, after she was heckled by “anti-choice activists” when she decided to get an abortion to prevent further harm to her body.
Both candidates also said they would support marriage equality, saying people should be able to marry whomever they love and want to spend their life with. The two also agreed that President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in a free and fair election in 2020.
D’Esposito did blame the president for increased living costs including gas and groceries, saying inflation is not happening on just a state level. Biden’s leadership, or lack thereof, he said, has made America appear as a “weak nation” to other world partners.
“We need to focus on energy independence and making sure that we can produce as much as we can here in the United States of America,” he said. “We need to focus less on bringing goods and services in from other countries, especially China, and we need to work in a bipartisan fashion to make those changes.”
Gillen attributed the recent inflation to some external factors, such as the war in Ukraine and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries adjusting prices along with, possibly, poor administrative policies.
Ways to combat it include repealing the State and Local Tax cap, which D’Esposito is also a supporter of, and extending the county’s gas tax holiday.
“We can take aim at price gouging and I will always stand against any lobby or any company that’s going to price gouge in a way that will hurt the residents of the Fourth Congressional District,” Gillen said.
Gillen touted her commitment to getting assault weapons off the streets and to supporting a woman’s right to choose while D’Esposito asked the public to determine whether or not they were better off today than when Biden took office.
The two are running to replace U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), who announced earlier this year she will not be running for re-election.
The 4th Congressional District, under newly-approved maps, includes the communities of Baldwin, Bellmore, East Rockaway, East Meadow, the Five Towns, Lynbrook, Floral Park, Franklin Square, Garden City, Garden City Park, Hempstead, Atlantic Beach, Long Beach, Malverne, Freeport, Merrick, Mineola, Carle Place, New Hyde Park, Oceanside, Rockville Centre, Roosevelt, Uniondale, Wantagh, West Hempstead, Westbury and parts of Valley Stream.